This Major Research Instrumentation (MRI) grant provides funding to acquire a high-performance computing cluster to support computational biology and affiliated research in the newly formed Center for Computational and Integrative Biology (CCIB) at Rutgers University-Camden (RUC). The CCIB brings together an inter-disciplinary group of faculty from the departments of Biology, Mathematics, Computer Science, Physics, and Chemistry, with a number of compute-intensive, data-driven projects. This proposed acquisition will contribute to, and substantially improve, the computing power available to CCIB projects, affecting both computational and experimental research efforts in up to 20 laboratories at RUC. The cluster will power a large multi-departmental project focused on the development of a common computational platform for multi-purpose modeling of networks and pathways and will significantly facilitate research on (a) how the development of complex body patterns in biological organisms is controlled; (b) mechanisms of biological rhythms and clocks; (c) how normally-occurring random fluctuations (noise) can enhance biological signaling; (d) analysis of biological images and (e) mining the rapidly expanding world store of genomic data.
The computing cluster will significantly strengthen a new interdisciplinary graduate program in CCIB at RUC, and will also strongly contribute to inter-disciplinary curricular development as part of Q-STEP, an innovative NSF program designed to increase the numbers undergraduates completing degrees in the sciences and mathematics at RUC. The state-of-the-art facility will thus form an integral component of extensive computational training for some 20 doctoral and 60 Masters students of CCIB to be enrolled over the next six years, and for Masters students in the existing RUC programs. The research and educational projects enabled by this acquisition will contribute to the mission of RUC to engage the surrounding community the impoverished urban area of Camden, NJ. The remarkable recent success of RUC programs in increasing participation of talented students from populations underrepresented in undergraduate science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines will allow CCIB to recruit exceptionally talented students from those populations. The CCIB will strongly encourage the participation of graduate students in a long-running outreach program to the local community. The proposed management plan foresees providing access to the cluster for external users. Minority-serving organizations, as well as research institutions and industrial partners, particularly start-ups collaborating with the CCIB, will be given preference. The computing cluster will enable CCIB to broaden and strengthen collaborations with other research and medical institutions in the area, contributing to the creation of a regional hotspot in southern New Jersey for life science and biomedical research, stimulating the biotechnology industry, and enhancing employment opportunities for the residents of southern New Jersey and its vicinity (Pennsylvania and Delaware).